Money to burn

By Denis Storey


And my wife says I don’t listen…

Enrollment season will be here before any of us know it, but way too many employees remain woefully—if not embarrassingly—in the dark about their benefit offerings. And it’s certainly not for a lack of information.

A new open enrollment survey—Aflac’s WorkForces Report—reveals an incredible 56 percent of workers waste up to $750 a year—and it’s not at Starbucks. (Besides, I think that might be more expensive.)

Nearly a quarter of them claimed they picked the wrong amount of coverage—paid for options they didn’t even need. Only 16 percent of employees surveyed felt confident they hadn’t made any mistakes at all in the enrollment process. For benefits managers (and enrollers), that’s a batting average that’ll get you busted down to the farm team.

The biggest problem—and the one I suffer from most at staff meetings and family dinners—is what the study calls “autopilot.” Case in point? Nearly 90 percent of employees just check the same box year after year, electing the same benefits options over and over again. A majority—61 percent—had little to no idea about policy changes.

“Workers cannot afford to be in the dark about benefits options,” Audrey Boone Tillman, executive vice president of corporate services at Aflac, said in a press release announcing the findings. “Consumers today need every dollar they have, with many clipping coupons and looking for ways to save. It’s critical employees understand their benefits options during open enrollment to ensure that they don’t make mistakes that cost them money.”

Don’t think your hands are clean in this. There’s clearly a disconnect between employers and employees here: 49 percent of employers felt they did their part to communicate effectively (which isn’t saying much, now that I think about it). But 52 percent of employees say they haven’t seen or heard a word about open enrollment.

But they’re eager for help. Half of employees admit they’d feel more clued in about their health plan choices if they sat down with a consultant during open enrollment, “and 47 percent typically look to resources other than HR/benefits professionals for advice about their benefits.”

I complain a lot about communication here—and trust me, I’m no better at it than you are—but there are few responsibilities more critical than leading a successful enrollment every year. Because your great benefits plan doesn’t mean a damn thing if no one’s actually benefiting.

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